June 2013

During the last few years, there has been a concerted effort, a campaign, to discredit state government retirees. A great deal of time and money has been spent doing it. This campaign has been led by wealthy large business interests and by several newspaper publishing companies.

These are organizations whose success in our society is largely based on the marketing skills they have available to them. They have the money to operate long-term campaigns. They have lobbyists with ready access to the state’s elected officials. They contribute large sums of money to the political campaigns of these elected officials.

Their mission seems to have been to influence the public’s opinion of state retirees and their associated retirement systems. They have unfairly characterized retired state employees as undeserving and unjustly receiving their pension benefits - benefits they were told they would receive in return for their service to the citizens (taxpayers) of Illinois. They have been laying the groundwork for making it politically safe for elected officials to take harsh, unfair, and possibly illegal actions to diminish the retirement benefits of state retirees.

Over the last few years during this campaign, we’ve seen examples of incorrect and misleading information repeated about state retirees in Illinois. As the saying goes, if you repeat a lie often enough, people will begin to think it is the truth.

The campaign has included misrepresentations about:

a) average pension annuity amount for retirees,
b) wages of state employees being higher than in the private sector,
c) benefits of Illinois’ state retirees being high compared to other states,
d) uncertainty of the five retirement systems’ ability to continue to pay the pension annuities to their respective members,
e) causes of the state’s financial problems.
f) reasons for reduced public services and delayed payments by the state.